August 25, 2009

"When the Grandmothers speak, the land will heal." (Native American prophecy)

Call to Seniors:
Come to West Virginia.
Stop MountainTop Removal.

I met Roland on a 10-day march to Fort Drum a couple of springs ago. All those days walking and talking with him. What a light. I agree with Vicki, he is a very special human being. Once again he has attached himself to a very special cause. Consider the possibility. -Russell

Dear Friends Over 50,
Please read carefully this invitation from my friend Roland, who is organizing a march of senior citizens to protest Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia. The 45-mile march will be gentle on our knees and on the environment, and is scheduled to begin in late September. If any of you are free to join with other elders in this important action, I encourage you to do so. Roland is a very special human being, and he is offering us an opportunity to do something that might actually make a difference. Please respond directly to him (contact info below) if you are interested, and please help spread the word.
Roland writes:
I have been here in West Virginia since June as part of an ongoing, non-violent, direct action campaign to stop the practice of mountaintop removal. This is an operation in which the crowns of mountains from as much as 1,500 ft. from the peak are blown off to expose underlying seams of coal. A toxic mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel is used, and millions of tons of rock and other debris are dumped into the streams and valleys below.

Prior to use of explosives, the area is stripped of all vegetation, including trees ranging in size from forest giants to saplings. Once the coal is harvested, the coal company is legally obligated to reclaim the land —
a next-to-impossible task once the topsoil and vegetation have been stripped away. Abandoned sites have all the starkness and austerity of a lunar landscape.

Communities down slope from MTR sites have to contend with contaminated drinking water, damage to homes, and respiratory problems from breathing airborne fallout from explosions. During an age when climate change is our outstanding environmental problems, we here at our encampment realize that deforestation and coal — both end results of MTR — are the major contributors to global warming. And considering what science is telling us about accelerating climate change, along with the molasses-slow pace at which our leaders are addressing the issue, it is easy to appreciate the sense of urgency that permeates our campaign.

Yet, against the wishes of every West Virginian we have met (except the well-paid workers who are doing the MTR) the practice continues. There is collusion between government and the coal industry that is very difficult to get around, and this is the situation we have to work with as we plan our strategy.

Most of my fellow-activists here are of my granddaughter's generation, and they are veterans of various actions that have been ongoing since February. They have blocked access to roads leading to MTR sites, chained themselves to mining equipment, and spearheaded protests at various agencies, such as the West Va. Department of Environmental Protection, which has been a little less than diligent in controlling the excesses of the mining industry. We have three groups here working on the MTR issue, and are using a combination of both legal and illegal tactics.

As a Christian and a law-abiding citizen, I have had to question my own motives for being here and participating in actions judged unlawful by society. I was arrested along with 28 others for blocking a road to a coal processing facility, but my transgression pales into insignificance compared to the legal crimes of Massey, Peabody, Independence, and others of the coal industry who are destroying the mountains. And in my role as a steward of Creation, in keeping with God's mandate that we not abuse that which has been given us, I have no other choice but to adopt non-legal but non-violent means in implementing what I perceive to be my stewardship obligations.

I have taken on the role of raising awareness and mobilizing senior citizens to take action against MTR. Toward this end, I am organizing a 45-mile protest march that will start in Charleston, West Va.) and end at a coal processing facility a short distance from our headquarters here at Rock Creek. The marchers will be wholly or primarily senior citizens, and the march will culminate in acts of civil disobedience by any who are willing to engage in such. The march will begin at the beginning of the last week of September, and depending on the pace, will end from 7-10 days later. Motorized support vehicles will accompany the walkers, and the public — including the coal companies — will be informed of our plans well in advance of the target dates.

We are modeling this action after a similar one by Gandhi, who marched over 200 miles to a seacoast, where he committed the illegal act of making salt. He announced his intentions to the British rulers before beginning the march, and though over 200 of the people who joined him were arrested, as was Gandhi himself, the law was eventually evoked. The most impressive aspect of this march was the lack of rancor and bad will toward those whose laws Gandhi and his followers were countermanding, and it is in this spirit that our march will be conducted, and only in this spirit is there hope for the changes that we see needed will come about. Oppressors are completely flummoxed by an opposition that refuses to hate them, but which demonstrates an iron clad determination to thwart activities of oppressors which are self-serving, destructive to human life and the environment, and downright wrong by the standards of any civilized society. And this is what the MTR issue is all about..

I am requesting the content of this letter be made available to all members of your group, in hopes that many of you who are frustrated about the general failure to seriously address issues critical to our survival as a functional society now have an opportunity for some meaningful action. Especially you seniors, who with the wisdom of your years would complement the idealism and perspectives of what has by-and-large been a youth-run campaign.

Please respond. We need you.

Roland Micklem
PO Box 163
Rock Creek, WV 25174

"When the Grandmothers speak, the land will heal."
(Native American prophecy)

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